As a young person I was like some of the early Christians that St Paul came across. I had been baptised, but knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. And when I was confirmed I waited anxiously to discover if something – perhaps, I thought, like an electric current – would pass through my body so that I could be sure my confirmation had “worked”. It took me a long while to work out that the Spirit of God was all around, that the ruach of the Old Testament or the pneuma of the New Testament is as close to me as my very breath and that one did not have to wait for a bishop to do something to make that discovery.
In a few minutes, we shall be praying for a world in which the Spirit of God is very much active. As we pray for people living in the extremities of life – war, abduction, murder and every kind of violence of mind and body, as we pray for people who are living with crippling or mortal illness, people who are grieving, anxious or depressed – in all those circumstances we maintain as an act of faith that the Spirit of God is there, and is there to sustain and love them. That Spirit longs for peace and for healing - wills our peace and our healing.
That Spirit is found too wherever there is fresh life and liveliness – in the natural order, in birth and in health, in artistry, in science, in learning, in sport – in all human life, in the life of our planet and of this whole universe.
I was perhaps a child slow to grasp the wonder of it all, and took time to come to my faltering grasp of God’s greatness expressed by the Holy Spirit. But I think I was not so unusual. Pentecost is God’s important gift to all of us who go round with eyes and minds only half-open. It seems to take a mighty rushing wind and flames of fire to inspire us with what has been there from the beginning - and which will carry us through whatever befalls to the very end of time.